Google Nexus 7 vs. iPad 3, unboxing and first impressions -- from iMore!

No, that title isn't a typo! Sure, I'm the editor-in-chief of the #1 site for everything iPhone and iPad, but I've gotten my hands on Google's brand new Nexus 7 tablet, running the all new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system, and I aim to put it head-to-head, tablet-e-tablet against Apple's new iPad.

And I'm starting with the traditional unboxing and some quick first impressions.

I really like the Nexus 7 so far. The interface on Jelly Bean is, for the most part, gorgeous. It doesn't look at all like iOS, and that's refreshing. It's filled with flat, high contrast colors and lines, and the design language works. Likewise, the animations are much, much better as well, serving more as transitions the way they should, and not delays like they have in the past.

The only downside is -- it's not consistent yet. I think Google's decision to allow a mishmash of smartphone and tablet interface elements was the wrong one. Having beautiful, pixel perfect, tablet-specific apps would make the entire experience better.

That feels like a stop-gap, however, and more an issue of time than anything. Matias Duarte is definitely having an impact at Google, but Rome wasn't re-built in a day.

Google Nexus 7 unboxing and initial hardware impressions -- from iMore!

Both Safari on iOS 5.1.1 and Chrome on Android 4.1 are great mobile browsers. They're based on WebKit, while Apple uses the Nitro JavaScript engine and Google uses V8. Rendering is so quick, and updates happen so frequently with new OS release, that differences are barely noticeable any more. The "browser wars" have really benefitted users in that regard.

The only issue I have with Chrome -- and it's really with Android in general -- is that a) it can't use elastic bounce-back effect that Apple patented, and that really does add to the experience of scrolling, and b) even with "Project Butter", Jelly Bean's simulated physics still feel off, and the touch tracking still feels too loose.

For many users this won't be an issue at all. For me, it's like nails on a chalkboard. Android 4.1 is undoubtedly the best, most fluid Android release yet, but slapping on experience polish may simply not be an option. They may need to re-build core parts of the OS from the ground up. My guess is they know that and are already doing it.

Unlike iOS, the app launcher isn't the main Home screen, but is available if you want to see all the apps that come with the Nexus 7. I really do miss having a Home button -- I keep trying to hit it on the Nexus 7 only to find it's not there. But what's irking me the most is that, if I put the Nexus 7 to sleep or it goes to sleep on its own, when I wake it up, it often goes to the Home screen instead of restarting where I left it. It doesn't happen when I'm in an app, thankfully, but if I'm in the app launcher, it does. Saved state should be an absolute. I shouldn't go back to the general place where I was when I resume using a device. I should go back to exactly where I was. If I can find a setting to change that, I will. If not, I hope Google fixes that behavior in an update.

The small, 7-inch form factor on the Nexus 7 is terrific. It's light, you can hold it by its sides with one hand, and it can easily slip into and out of a jacket pocket. The size does come at a price though. While it's every bit as good for enjoying videos, books, websites, and games, the lack of screen real estate hurts it as a productivity device. I bought a 13-inch MacBook Air over an 11-inch MacBook Air because, even though it's not as ultra-portable, the extra pixels were far more important to me. I live in Coda, Photoshop, and web browsers. I need space. Other people, of course, will value the smaller Nexus 7 more, just like they value the smaller 11-inch MacBook Air more.

If I had to line them up, a Nexus 7 is closer to being a bigger, more functional phone where an iPad is closer to a being a smaller, less functional laptop.

If I'm reading in bed and pass out, the lighter Nexus 7 will dent my face considerably less when it falls on me, and so it'll be my go to device then and there. But when I'm out without a laptop and need to get things done, I'll want the iPad. (There's a carry on vs. checked baggage analogy there somewhere.)

With a 1280 x 800 display at 216dpi, the Nexus 7 isn't as high resolution or as high density as the iPad's 2048 x 1536 Retina display at 264 dpi, but they're both IPS (in-plane switching) so they both have excellent viewing angles and both look fantastic for everyday use.

No one should be disappointed with either of these screens.

At times, the Nexus 7 feels like a front end to the Google Play store, much like the Kindle Fire feels like a portal to the Amazon Store, but here I think Google's "openy-ness" will make a big difference here -- Jelly Bean It doesn't feel anywhere nearly as locked in as Amazon's ecosystem.

(The Apple TV feels much the same when it comes to iTunes, though iPhones, iPads, and Nexus phones have never felt that way to me -- likely because I'm too busy doing things with them.)

Overall, the Nexus 7 is the best 7-inch tablet I've used so far. It's not an iPad, nor should it be. Google got that part exactly right. It fills a space, and a need, that the current iPad does not. In fact, it's more like a big iPod touch than an small iPad. And that's a good thing...

...Because I don't think the rumored 7.85-inch iPad will be anything like that at all. It will be a small iPad, not a big iPod touch. That will make the iPad mini and the Nexus 7 very different products. And that will make things even better for consumers, and more interesting for those of us who love gadgets in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.

Back with more on Monday when I've had a chance to user the Nexus 7, Jelly Bean, and Google Play some more. That's the part I'm most interested in -- and the part where I think the power and flexibility of Android will really shine.

Meanwhile, if you're an Android Central expert, feel free to give me your best tips and tricks. I want to get the most out of the Nexus 7!

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Google Nexus 7 vs. iPad 3, unboxing and first impressions -- from iMore!

44 Comments

Georgia is our true objective. Intentions are to pull her in via Rene and then possibly sacrifice Rene for continued blessing.

I've heard the "fear of dropping a tablet on your face" comment so many times now that I must have learned to incorrectly read a book: having it on top of my chest with my hands holding it vertical.

Also, being open is irrelevant to the mass market user. The giant feature of the Nexus 7 is that costs $200 for a 7" IPS screen with a Tegra 3. An OEM would sell this for $300 to $400. People recognize good deals when they see them.

Amazon is sure to follow with an at cost 2012 Kindle Fire, with similar components.

We'll see if a "sell hardware at cost, make money on content" business model or ad based business model can really work on a purportedly "open" systems.

Good review.

Watch your free Transformers 3, spend your $25 in the Play store, try out the online store/installs, sync Chrome to your desktop one and put it in the back pocket of your jeans just to try it out. :-)

Canadians don't get the $25 I'm pretty sure...or at least I remember Bla1ze complaining about it a little while ago=/

I think I also remember seeing that he did manage to get the $25 after that (I thought he tweeted something about it -- I could be wrong though)

Great review and perspective. I'm a little confused about what our meant by the saved state issue though. Are you referring to the fact that if you lock the device when you're in the app drawer, is takes you back to the launcher upon reawakening? If so, I'm pretty sure that's the only instance of this sort of behavior and it's not only intentional but logical within Android. The drawer is a very temporary place, only for apps you don't access often enough to put on a home screen.

Having both a new iPad and the Nexus 7 I can say for sure that the Nexus is by far the superior ereading device (long period reading like books). Much lighter and much easier to hold, my hands don't get tired. I've also come to the conclusion, after trying to make my iPad work as a productivity tool for a semester in college, tablets just aren't productive. There is no circumstance where I need to be productive and I cannot find a laptop/ultrabook. Tablets are still too limited to justify the workarounds necessary to get any real work done, and even then we're talking a dismally small screen and the complete lack of decent multitasking for any such work (iPad included).

All that said, iPad still wins in tablet optimized apps, AirPlay with my ATV2, and content selection.

...anyway, just my two cents.

The dumb question of whether someone should get a laptop or ipad (especially for college) is still asked all the time in the forums.

There's always those that try to answer that an ipad can be productive. Sure. In certain niches or specific situations. And big companies are finding those specific situations and buying. Blog writers certainly can use one because they simply write..and write simply. Given the amount of bad writing, typos, and grammar we see, bloggers don't seem to care either. Anything beyond simple? No. College isn't this. Too many classes, too many subjects. Need a spreadsheet? Numbers on iOS is a horror to use. I can only imagine the half baked assignments students turn in using an ipad.

I think he means, like if I am streaming a video (The VergeCast an hour ago) and the screen goes to sleep. Instead of pausing the video in the sleep state and you can resume upon waking the iPad. Nexus 7 do that and you have to start the video over and find where u left off… Overall Nexus 7 is a decent device but has its annoyances still.

That depends on the app. When the activity is switched, Android notifies the app and allows it to set the state. Some apps do a better job at it than others. The Movie app and iTunes leave the screen exactly where it was and you can resume from where you had left off. Netflix logs you back into the app and you have to select the movie again, but it too remembers where you had left off and continues from there. VergeCast apparently ignores the request to save state.

As far as the problem in the original article, I'd say that it's working as designed. The App Drawer is not Springboard. In fact, in my usage, it's rarely used. The apps I use on a daily basis are on one screen neatly organized into relevant folders. The apps I use constantly are organized in the app dock accessible from every home screen.

I'd suggest that you check out two apps. Both Nova Launcher (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.teslacoilsw.launcher&f...) and Apex Launcher (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.anddoes.launcher&featu.....) are excellent replacement launchers. 1 Tap Quick Bar (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rootuninstaller.onetap) is yet another great customizer of the Notification dropdown - quickly accessible even if you are in any app.

I think Rene is too vested in iPhone OS to give proper review of a different product. I'm not saying it negatively I'm really not. But I do think sentences like 'it doesn't feel how iOS feels when dragging your finger' and 'I can't leave it in the launcher when I lock the screen'. It just doesn't apply. No one would ever want to keep it on the launcher unless your trying to make it look and feel exactly like iOS which it just isn't. You can fill 5 screens full of icons on the normal screens so why even bother leaving it in the launcher screen. Also your nails on a chalk board comes about the slight delay when moving I the screen, it isn't bad at all. In fact, I think its really good. I actually think its better than iOS. I hate the way inertia and kinetic scrolling feels on iOS compared to Android. So its not a negative, its that your used to something else. If someone with Palm OS that loves Palm OS bought an iPhone expecting it to work, look, and feel like Palm OS would be pretty disappointed as well.

Anyway, still always interesting to read, but your heart seems set and it seems like it won't change now matter how much better any OS is than iOS. Looking forward to part 2.

Just want to point out that you should be careful calling the app drawer the launcher...mostly because it's not. The launcher is the UI front end whether it's stock, Apex, Nova, ADW, Launcher Pro etc. (Just to avoid any confusion.)

I do agree with some of your sentiment, though it comes off a bit too confrontational imo. Most of all expecting certain behavior (app drawer) from one OS that just doesn't make sense in another and making it seem like an inherent negative.

If the App Drawer were an overlay or some other non-full screen element, I could understand it being "temporary", but since it acts like a proper column view in the home screen system, lack of proper saved state is irksome.

iOS had bad notifications compared to Jelly Bean. Saying that doesn't make me bias against iOS, it makes me bias against bad notifications. Jerry Bean has bad physics compared to iOS. That only makes me bias against bad physics.

It is true that once you play a video game with excellent controls, it's more annoying to play a video game with poor controls. But the underlying truth is that some games have poorer controls.

I used Palm OS for years before iOS. I adapted fine. I used a Nexus One, on and off, for a year right after it came out. I adapted fine.

Some things are habit, others are genuine strengths and weaknesses of the platform.

If we can agree no one OS is perfect, then we can agree each has better and worse points, and we can agree not to dismiss someone's opinion as "they're used to iOS" when, even if iOS didn't exist, the problems in other OS would still be there :)

Fair point, but having started with Android before trying iOS, I can't say I've ever felt that way about the app drawer. It might have to do with the fact that prior to Honeycomb, the drawer was only a drawer with no widgets and scrolled up and down. Heck, for a while in the early days it didn't fill the screen and had a handle to pull up from the bottom. I guess long time Android users have just been trained to conceptualize it that way. Whether such a metaphor should still hold today however, is clearly debatable;)

Edit: I just realized the behavior is exactly the same when it comes to the notification tray (and notification center on iOS if I'm not mistaken). Both fill up the entire screen (Notification Center on iPhone anyway), but locking/waking the device will return to the launcher (or Springboard on iOS). Just food for thought...

LMAO...

That's the problem with using any touchscreen device for serious work. And if you're relying on spell check to catch your typos instead of proofreading, you're a poor writer to begin with.

I am really pleased that you are doing this. It is more important to hear about your reaction than say Phil or Jerry. With a 7 inch iPad in the wings, a direct comparison will help people see what the options are. We are all technology consumers.

Thanks for the review. For the editor-in-chief of an iDevice website you were fair. Thanks for the using iOS are your reference points and comparisons, since we are on iMore and many readers here are iOS device users. I'm so vested into Apple products that a competitor would have to have a mind-blowing device to get me to buy non-Apple.

This is a great article and it's good to see an editor of a dedicated blog write such an unbiased article. I have had an iPhone since the 3gs came out and an iPad since the iPad 2 with upgrades every year from att. I just switched to Verizon and am trying a sgs 3 until the next iPhone comes out. Well written Rene thanks!

It's nice to see you affirm that a 7" form factor is actually pretty good. Why then do we put up with all these questions on whether this is viable or not (for apple) when it was as obvious as 2 + 2?

Nice again that you pointed out that Apple's rumored ipad mini won't be this. Aspect ratio dictates the mini ipad would be more squarish, or a smaller ipad. It would be bigger than a 16:9 7" Nexus or kindle.

Regarding use of tablets. Studies out pretty much dictate all users want to do is browse, and be entertained (pics, music, video). Put reading on the list for this because as you so pointed out, it's the size of a kindle and perfect for it. It fits into a jacket. At 200, it sounds like a no brainer right?

Productive? Who cares.. The mainstream isn't buying one to be productive. Neither is the vast majority of ipad buyers. It's about time someone not Apple got this.

So why am i not selling my ipad and saving some money on the Nexus? Because it's not iOS. At the end of the day you still have to use apps. I'm already invested. Both are app launchers. You still have to manage it. Itunes is simple stupid. The mainstream knows iOS. It still needs storage. 8gb is laughable. Even 16gb is anemic. It still needs an easy way to manage files & media.

It's definitely one or the other though and @200 will sell them. I don't think this opens up a new space beside the ipad. (I can barely justify getting an ipad as it is, definitely not if i had a Nexus 7). And it could be that the ipad mini might be the answer for some. But it still won't be as portable. Perhaps at 7" we're looking for a larger ipod and not a smaller ipad.

"You still have to manage it. Itunes is simple stupid. The mainstream knows iOS. It still needs storage. 8gb is laughable. Even 16gb is anemic. It still needs an easy way to manage files & media."

Yes and no. I can see how iOS this would be the case... but less so with more things getting tied to iCloud.

Most of Google's services are in the cloud (well, for consumers in the U.S anyway). Music, movies, books, magazines, etc. You'll also notice the Nexus7 is wifi only. From my understanding, the storage space is simply for apps, and data/media that you can't access from the cloud (or need access to when not on wifi).

Its a bit of a different mindset then iOS. I'm not saying which way of thinking is "best", simply because what works BEST for you might be very different from what works BEST for me.

As for myself, I kinda prefer Android over iOS for the most part, but I'll freely admit iOS kicks Anddroid's butt in certain areas (especially media consumption). And as for which Nexus I'd take? Well, I'll take the 16gig. Not all of Google's ""cloud" services are available here, so I would need the extra on-board storage.

I think the stupidest thing about movies on the Play Store is that I cannot download them to a computer. It is ok, I don't want Transformers 3 anyway… Just saying that is dumb.

I'll stick to iTunes, my 6TB NAS and my DRM remover that only works with iTunes anyway.

Hey Rene; generally, I agree with you spot-on about the Nexus 7 and Jelly Bean. As a former webOS user myself, items such as multitasking made an impression. It was smooth and easier to use than previous android os's...

However, you didnt mention much aout the quality aspect of the Nexus 7. I had an issue with the hardware/software (and returned mine). While the general feel was nice (with the rubber back,-very nice) I had issues with constant restarts/freezes. This was the first time that the difference in refinement showed between Apple and Google. Also, other users are reporting easily scratched screens, another cost savings method. Did you experience anything that made it feel obviously less expensive than the iPad?

That's interesting. We bought two of them here. No problems at all with restarts and refreezes with either one. This suggest that you had a problem with your specific device.

I love the end of the video, when you say "Hey . Phil! Where's the damned home button?" and even you end up calling it the iPad3 - great. All reviewers should play with the opposition sometimes - it adds perspective. I wonder how Kevin's world tour will end up?

With a 7 inch iPad hanging speculatively in the future; will this form factor change the way you use a tablet? This is an interesting experiment.

Sir, welcome to the jelly bean side of life! Welcome to a world of widgets...where freedom is not just a word, it actually exists.
Some apps that would be cool for you are:
1. Carbon-arriving in the play store tommorrow. Supposed to be an awesome twitter client
2. Solid explorer has a nice ui for a file explorer
3. Airdroid is a must if you want to send files over wifi to your new tab
4. Try madfinger games, they are usually awesome
5. If you are a fan of spartacus like I am, Glory, blood and sand is a great game. Make sure to get the bloody version one
6. Beautiful widgets is a must for all their glory and beauty
7. any.do is a nice schedule planner with a very nice ui and an even better widget
8. Maybe zedge for wallpapers. Has a huge collection of wallpapers
9. Experiment with different launcher...atom, nova, helix, golauncher and see which one suits your tastes the best
Will be updating more apps later. Enjoy jellybean...and dont spend all the 25$ free credit in one place.

I think the 7" form factor is a great size to what Steve Jobs said the iPad is good for. Browsing the Web, email, photos, video, music, games and music. 7" is a great size because it is so portable you are carrying it around with you. The size of the iPad makes it more at home and that's is more of getting things done. If I want to consume content, I want to do that on my nexus 7 over the iPad.

Not sure the 7" form factor is a sizable market yet. There isn't much evidence of it yet. The Kindle Fire came out with a pop in Q4 '11, but it appeared to fizzle in the 1H '12. If the form factor was mass marketable, one of the signs would be sustained sales of the Kindle Fire, but it didn't happen.

Also, 7" devices are not portable. They can't be placed in people's pockets or purses. You can do it, but it's not a comfortable thing. Large 5" smartphones will beat it in portability while being something you will bring with you everywhere and basically doing 99% of the job. So a 7" device definitely could be a tweener size, destined for a smaller niche only.

Wait and see. There is a market for it. Will it be bigger than a 10" size? Wait and see.

There is a market for 7",people just don't know it yet. Apple is usually the first to give us a new product that we didn't know we wanted. This time it's Google. There are the hard core apple lovers now saying that Apple needs to jump into the 7" form factor size because they want to use iOS on a more portable device.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/briancaulfield/2012/07/16/mossberg-pogue-sei...

As for why the Kindle fire didn't sale well, well it has poor UX to it. It is pretty laggy and sometimes it wouldn't register touch inputs.

With the 7" form factor I hope that Apple does the same thing that Amazon did with the Kindle fire. Have the interface be optimized for consuming content. Don't let it be an iPad mini but let it be its own thing that is focused on consuming content. Will they do that, not sure but will be interested to see what they do with the smaller form factor.

Good review but I agree with previous posters. If you are accustomed to using iOS then certain things will feel different but that doesnt make them 'better' it just means they are different because better is opinion based. Me being an Android user would say that there are things in android that are different than IOS because they are. If everyone thought 'better' meant the same thing, then according to you there would be no other OS. Plus if Android adopted the things from iOS that you say make the iPad better then there would be even more litigation in the court rooms and more people claiming Android copied apple. Android is a sesperate entity and does things 'differently' than iOS which is a good thing. Also in regards to your grips about the 7 inch form factor, will you continue to have them once the iPad mini is released or will they suddenly change?

I used Android for over 3 yrs, and now i've been using an iPhone for 3 months. The way of thinking for both really is different. Two simple examples:
Calendar & Time (quickest ways to check)
iPhone:
1) Turn off and on screen
2) Look at time on top and scroll to the screen with your calendar to see the date

Android: (Galaxy Nexus)
1)Turn off and on screen
2) Tap on the 'home' button and if you have a time/date widget you'll see the time & date
(Now, this required having set up the widget in the 1st place)
It's just different. You can probably argue the pros and cons of both all day.

Closing apps:
Apple:
-Double tap home button, long tap an open app, and begin closing apps
Android: (Galaxy Nexus)
Tap on right button (for apps to appear) & slide apps to left or right for them to close.

The way of thinking for both is very different, and yes Rene's comment really points out his being accustomed to the apple culture. I actually had to try out this out myself to see the preferences. This on the iPhone, yes important, but on an Android... Android uses widgets, and you'd always want the most popular widget to be the one you see 1st, not the one you were at last. And, you put your home screen the most popular widgets and the 2nd most popular to the left or right of that screen.

My Galaxy Nexus is 100% stock (JB) and I only need to either:

1. Pull down the notification shade from anywhere in the OS. Time and date are right there at the top-left.

or

1. Turn off and on screen. Time, date and next alarm are right there on the lock-screen.

Could you post a video or something to back this up as @dazweeja is right, to view time and date on a GNex from locked is push the power button to wake the screen and the time and date (as well as time of next alarm) is shown...

@mac58 I think he liked the 7" didn't he? I agree with a lot of your reply to our comments, but I strongly feel it doesn't apply to to the launched saving state. You have 5 home screens available that you can place dozens of apps on each one. There is literally no reason for the launcher to save state. Download a black wallpaper, put all your icons in a grid on the home screen and BAM, you have the launcher in saved state. In fact, I think Google intentionally did this. The screen saves state in literally every application within any screen of that application on the device, except for the launcher. Just saying.

I'm sorry initially when I red this I thought otherwise
"The size does come at a price though. While it's every bit as good for enjoying videos, books, websites, and games, the lack of screen real estate hurts it as a productivity device. I bought a 13-inch MacBook Air over an 11-inch MacBook Air because, even though it's not as ultra-portable, the extra pixels were far more important to me. I live in Coda, Photoshop, and web browsers. I need space. Other people, of course, will value the smaller Nexus 7 more, just like they value the smaller 11-inch MacBook Air more.

If I had to line them up, a Nexus 7 is closer to being a bigger, more functional phone where an iPad is closer to a being a smaller, less functional laptop."
But maybe he was just listing pros and cons of device? Its just I want to see if these cons stick with the iPad minis launch or if they will be dismissed.

Also the bounce back feature on iOS for browser is replaced in Android by the blue bar effect. Just wanted to again explain how then two OS's do things 'differently'. Which ever is better is left for each individual to discover.

I find it interesting you feel android physics are too loose. I use devices from all operating systems, and iOS scrolling drives me up the wall! When I swipe with a decent speed, I meen to go more than one screen distance. For me, the friction in iOS scrolling is faaaaaaaar too high. Personal preference I guess. I like how pretty much every other OS handles scrolling physics (Android, WP7, I think WebOS was better, etc).

I think this is one of the most unbiased posts toward Android Rene has written in quite a while and I commend you Rene! I can't say I see one statement I disagree with and I am an Android evangelist even though I have been using an iPhone for the better part of two years now and had Blackberries before that.

That said, as much as I love Android and would love to have the Nexus 7, I am quite nervous about the effect the 7" iPad will have in regard to the Android tablet space as a hole. In particular if Apple hits the <$250 price point. I think it's a safe bet Apple will release a 7" variant, in fact I will just put it out there and say they will, if for no other reason than to kill off the only truly successful Android tablet to date; the Kindle Fire. It is war as we all know, and injunctions aren't the only way to cripple a competitor. Killing a rivals product with one of your own is even more effective.

Let's face it, I would wager a large majority of the people ( i.e. Joe Consumer, not those of us who follow tech) who bought the Kindle Fire wanted an iPad but couldn't afford one nor could they afford an Android tablet because they were priced nearly the same.

So when Apple puts out a $250 7" iPad everyone who was still holding out will jump right on it.

I love Android, and I love choice, but Apple is a steamroller right now with no signs of slowing at the moment.

I believe that if you love Android, you buy Android in the same way that if you love Apple, you'll buy Apple...
No matter how good the competition is, no matter what great new features they add you will buy what you love and the other will always have too many faults that can't be overlooked, even if those "faults" are just your own preconceptions...